Conservatism: a regard for, habit of reasoning from, and promotion of, that set of values so basic to human nature that no unusual degree of sophistication is required to understand and hold them.
First, please note that the above definition identifies no particular doctrines which one must hold in order to be a conservative. However, in order for this definition to work, it must be assumed that such a thing as human nature does exist.
That is, a set of tendencies must exist which are singularly proper to human beings when those human beings are most happily and perfectly cultivated as beings
A) particularly human
B) in the actual Earthly world
C) in relation
1. to one another,
2. nonhuman creatures
D) with regard to their inner selves.
It must also be assumed that holding values is proper to human nature, and that human nature is properly aligned with certain values and not with others.
Therefore, the existence of human nature…
A. as a given thing, and not as something endlessly malleable
B. as a thing which at center is a seeing-and-loving creatureliness
C. properly given to the contemplation and love of some things, and not of others
…may be considered the foundational doctrine of conservatism.
It is this foundational doctrine that gives conservatism its appeal to people who see immortal beauty in what is permanent and enduring.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God
Further note that although no unusual degree of sophistication is required to be a conservative (because people, when they are well, naturally tend to feel as conservatives feel) still, one can be a conservative and be highly educated at the same time.
While liberals as a group have more education than conservatives (because extensive sophistication and endless argumentation is required to alienate human beings from human nature) when conservatives do acquire learning, their arguments are typically so clear, so cogent, and so light-giving that the only way for liberals to answer them is to engage in endless tracts of ecliptic speech, equivocation, and euphemisms which invoke passions in lieu of intellect.
(Or, they can simply pay people to pretend to be conservatives while engaging in acts of violence and hatred. That apparently muddies the water pretty well.)
On the other hand, the uneducated conservative often feels that he must talk like a sophisticated person in order to defend his feelings, which in reality need no defense because they are so basic. And so he becomes a liability in public discourse because of his mistake of obscuring conservative principles through unnecessary complications (such as conspiracy theories or loopy verbiage.) He engages in such complications, while trying to imitate those anti-conservative defenses which are designed to make him feel inferior and so often succeed.
Additionally note that while certain sins are rude and bestial, other sins literally require sophistication. Neither lack of cultivation nor sophistication is a virtue.
Finally, please note that a certain liberality – of tempter, of speech, of habit, and of thought – is, itself, proper to human nature. This is why the best constituted, cultivated, and educated conservative is often marked by such liberality, and indeed originality and creativeness, to a degree that puts professing liberals to shame. Meanwhile, people who are more or less conservatives, while lacking such perfection of cultivation, constitution, and education, are often marked by an embarrassing torpidity of moral thought and feeling.
Political and cultural liberalism, then, may be tentatively defined as an attempt to acquire the perfections of conservatism without remaining attached to the foundations of conservatism.
I believe this satisfactorily expresses the ungrounded and incoherent character of non-conservative thought.